I have had the urge to do this climb for a while, but I was never sure if I had the legs for it. Turned out it wasn’t as bad as anticipated. The climb is roughly 6-7 miles and around 2500 feet vertical
Parked off of Rt 606 near the Clifton Forge Reservoir. Although it is an extremely steep and winding back road, it is heavily used as a shortcut between The Homestead Hotel and the Roanoke airport.
Crossing Fore Mountain Trail at the beginning.
The start of the ride was very scenic along the creek
As you go up, it is drier – and curvier
Although the traffic was not that bad, you can get caught off guard in the curves
At the top, you leave Rt 606 to finish the climb on Rt 703
Around 4000 feet, spring was just getting going good
At the top, there is a new set of signs – one for the trailhead and one for parking.
Lake Moomaw in the distance
View from the parking lot is awesome, looking well over into West Virginia
Sandy Gap Trailhead
The first ¼ mile is on Nature Conservancy land, the signs and parking lot are new. My understanding in the past was that we were not really welcome there. Looks like the Nature Conservancy and the Forest Service worked something out. It could have been that the horses were the problem, anyways treat this access with respect so that we don’t lose it.
The last time I rode this the top part of the trail was totally covered in brush and briars, as was the rest of the trail. Now the top part is in beautiful condition.
A controlled burn is planned for the area so we are kind of going to wait and see what happens with the rest of the trail
The rockwork on this trail is second to none
Unfortunately, after passing the part marked as a burn area the trail is a mess
The awesome rock work is still there on the lower stretches, it just needs an army of trail cleaners
At the bottom there was a poster saying I should not have been in there –woops, there was not one at the top. I certainly would not recommend riding this anyways until some serious trail cleaning is done.
At the bottom, you cross FS 125 and climb up Sandy Gap Trail to the top of Middle Mountain in Douthat. Some of you may recognize this piece of trail as part of the XXC course for Middle Mountain Mama race
A short time later I was taking a break at the Tuscarora Overlook in Douthat State Park
The rest of my ride was on Middle Mountain South / Fore Mountain Trail. No trail sign but there is a county line marker sign at the trailhead, go figure. This trailhead is right at the top of Stony Run where Middle Mountain trail merges with Stony Run
This is one of the more fun rides around, it needs to be used more. It has a descent, a climb, and another descent. It should be a must do for the more adventuresome riders.
Being a national forest trail, it is more grown over and has more sticks than the Douthat State Park trails. It is probably 4-5 miles and probably 90% downhill.
Some rocky stretches
The climb section is through a nasty laurel patch and require some pushing. After that, it is downhill all the way to the Clifton Forge Reservoir.
Crappy picture, but at the bottom you go right to the Clifton Forge Reservoir – Covington via the Fore Mountain trail.
If you go left through McGraw Hollow you will come out on Douthat Road just above the new Whispering Pines Campground
Dam on Smith Creek at the Clifton Forge Reservoir
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